John Lackey turned in his second excellent start in a row yesterday, becoming yet another cog in a Red Sox rotation that is turning out to be a well-oiled machine. One starter after another has turned in a great start over the last week or so, and Lackey was no different yesterday afternoon, tossing eight shutout innings, and giving up just 6 hits and one walk with 108 pitches, 73 of which were thrown for strikes.
According to Lackey, he was able to use the slight of being skipped in the rotation back on April 13th as motivation (to be fair, it was rained out, and instead of pushing everyone nack, he was skipped). And why not? The anger and annoyance of being underestimated and overlooked has been motivation enough for teammate Dustin Pedroia to build a ROY/MVP/All Star career on, so it should certainly work for Lackey.
Lackey reported that the skipped start "pissed [him] off," and when asked if he used that as motivation, he quipped, "What do you think?" It seems that Lackey's got some snark, but it seems to be working for him. Personally, I could get on board with a bit of sarcasm from the big righty: I find it wildly entertaining when Josh Beckett shuts down reporters (ahem, Heidi Watney) with his snipe.
The fact is, Lackey has always been a quality pitcher: he has a career record of 118-84, with a 3.92 career ERA, and he tosses an average of 219 IP per 162 games. That's certainly nothing to sneeze at, and Lackey knows it, but he also knows that the expectations in Boston are a bit higher than they were out in southern California. With the Angels, Lackey won more than 14 games just once, with 19 in 2007. In his first year with the Sox, he went 14-11and tossed 215 innings during a Parade of carnage that saw nearly all of his teammates miss some time to injury.
But still, the fans howled: "We didn't pay $80 million for a 4.40 ERA!" Lackey's paycheck is neither here nor there. It obviously hasn't stopped the front office from going after other high-price talent, and the thing about rooting for a big market team is that they can afford to overpay when they deem it worthwhile.
It's certainly been worth it, in my opinion. Clearly, Lackey is capable of brilliance, as he's shown us over his last two starts (giving up just one run in 14 innings). Like Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey seems to have found something to motivate him to turn in his very best every five days: anger. If all it took to get John Lackey to turn into a bona fide ace was a few days of hurt pride, I can certainly support that.
[Quotes in this post found on the Extra Bases blog, Boston.com]